Consumers are looking to simplify healthcare and beauty routines and, as such, are moving back to basics. Ailsa Colquhoun reports

A few years ago, the words ‘here comes the science bit’ underpinned everything that was desirable in health and beauty. Now, claims a Mintel survey into the facial skincare market, consumers are more sceptical - with one in five saying that they tend not to believe the claims made by manufacturers.
Claire Nuttall, director of consumer service brands at brand consultancy Dragon, says that women are looking for a ‘real women, real beauty’ message. She says: “There is a movement towards back to basics. There has been an element of over-complication in the market. People are looking for real solutions and not to have the wool pulled over their eyes.”
As everyday consumer essentials, healthcare and toiletries produce lucrative returns. The total take-home market stands at £5.8bn [TNS 52 w/e March 27, 2005] and has grown by more than 4% year-on-year. Bathroom products, particularly, have proved fertile product development territory, as consumers opt for convenience and pay for specialist products such as aromatherapy oils and spa-related ingredients.
According to TNS, bathroom toiletries dominate the healthcare and toiletries market with a 39% share [TNS 52 w/e March 27, 2005].
The average household is spending £4.50 more on health and beauty compared with a year ago, according to TNS.
Boots remains the overall leader in the healthcare and toiletries market with a 25% share, with total sales growing 4.8%, leading Tesco, which has a 19% share, says TNS.
However, Boots’ dominance has come at a price as it has struggled to maintain share by offering exclusive and often own-label ranges at the expense of value gains.
In its recent preliminary results, Boots admitted that an average 14% price reduction on its toiletries lines in the £200m ‘Lower prices you’ll love’ campaign, coupled with an ongoing store development programme, had achieved sales gains - but only of 0.1%, despite a 2.5% rise in store footfall and a 4.3% increase in the number of units sold.
As Mintel says: “Below the line is extremely important to this market, with all the major retailers regularly running money-off or buy-one-get-one-free-style promotions.”
Boots has had more success in the skincare market, and reported a 4.4% increase in skincare sales.
Commenting on the financial performance of Boots the Chemists division, Boots chief executive Richard Baker said that the relaunch of
the No 7 brand had driven sales up by 20% over the year and provided the company “with a robust position to defend”.
However, grocers, with share gain firmly in their sights, are stepping up the pressure on Boots.
Asda recently stepped up to the plate, announcing a £7m facelift of its 278 health and beauty departments, with improved shelving, graphics and lighting.
It is also adding 1,000 new products, including designer haircare, skincare and electrical beauty products, taking the total to 7,000.
However, while branded goods are performing well, to date own-label development has been poor.
Morrisons, for example, says its offering across the category accounts for only an average of one in five products on-shelf.
But, as Una Kelly, trading manager at the multiple, says: “In the next 12 months, we will develop this section in order to meet the dynamic and ever-changing market.”
Last year total skincare products increased sales by 6.6% [TNS 52 w/e
March 27, 2005]. Not surprisingly, this sub-sector remains the main area of new product development.
Mintel says increasing numbers of consumers aged over 45 have provided impetus for anti-ageing product development and skincare companies have segmented their product offer to provide tailored skincare solutions based on age, skin-type and lifestyle.
While scientific advance has made this possible, Mintel highlights how consumers of organic food are now beginning to turn their attention to non-food, inspiring demand for safe, efficacious natural ingredients in skincare and oral hygiene products.